An international research consortium next month will begin examining the use of antibodies from the blood of Ebola survivors to help infected Ebola patients ward off the disease.
If the procedure is successful, it would provide a short-term treatment option for current Ebola patients in West Africa.
Led by the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp, the consortium includes the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; National Blood Transfusion Centre in Conakry, Guinea; the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in Kinshasa, Congo; and the Belgian Red Cross-Flanders.
The group recently received $3.7 million from the European Union to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the treatment.
“Blood and plasma therapy are medical interventions with a long history, safely used for other infectious diseases,” ITM’s Johan van Griensven, the project’s coordinating investigator, said. “Ebola survivors contributing to curb the epidemic by donating blood could reduce fear of the disease and improve their acceptance in the communities.”
The Wellcome Trust will also provide support.
“The Wellcome Trust is delighted to work in partnership with the European Commission to support and help fast-track this critical work," Jeremy Farrar, director of the trust, said. "Convalescent serum offers the best potential treatment for Ebola in the short term that could be scaled up if proven effective. Global collaboration of this nature, including clinical researchers and multiple partners from across Europe and West Africa, is both unprecedented and essential if we are to bring the current outbreak under control.”
The research project will start in Guinea.